Until recently, homes for sale throughout Mendocino County were full of potential buyers ready to put a down-payment on their next home. Buyers spent weekends visiting open houses where they picked up finger foods before walking from room to room, opening cabinets, looking in closets, and sizing up spaces to see if their furniture would fit.
Now the germ-spreading potential of this scene fills many of us with horror, all those unwashed hands touching all those undisinfected doorknobs and cabinet pulls. Because of COVID-19, all non-essential business has come to an abrupt halt, and that includes activities like open houses and much of the rest of the real estate business. Clearly, any desire to buy or sell a house can be put on hold for most of us—but for some, finding a place to live or selling their house is an urgent matter.
Imagine you changed jobs right before the novel coronavirus descended. Now, you need to sell your house so you can afford to buy a new one in your new community. Or, you just arrived in your new community and you need to find a place to live; you sold your old house and must invest those proceeds in a new residence in the next few months or you risk living on the street.
Although it’s not ideal, it is possible to buy and sell real estate responsibly during this pandemic if you’re willing to do business differently. With a shelter-in-place order, no one should be showing property in-person. However, if you’re a buyer, you can still tour properties virtually. In Mendocino County, most properties for sale do not offer 3-D virtual tours. However, all properties have owners. If those owners are currently living in the property or close enough that they can get there easily without interacting with others, owners can walk around their property with a smart phone live-streaming to show you the property. If a property owner does not live in the area, the listing agent could be the one person allowed on-site to offer virtual tours. This prevents the transmission of coronavirus but gives buyers the ability to see properties of interest. Buyers could include a contingency that allows them to back out if, upon physical inspection, they discover something that changes their mind about the purchase. On the selling side, you can work with your Realtor by communicating electronically. Is it ideal? No, but will it work? Yes.
Once the strict shelter-in-place order lifts, there may be some risk of a COVID-19 resurgence. If you are showing houses, be sure to disinfect every surface and open all the windows to air out the place before bringing anyone by. If you’re a buyer who plans to start visiting houses, consider bringing your own Clorox Handi Wipes and don’t touch your face before washing your hands.
And for those of you who already own a home but are struggling to pay your mortgage, be aware that some lenders are allowing a grace period. Learn more here: www.fhfa.gov/Homeownersbuyer/MortgageAssistance/Pages/Coronavirus-Assistance-Information.aspx.
If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at email@example.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.